Iran Noruz Summit Includes Qatar and Oman, No Assad or Abdullah……….

     
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Mehr News reports that Iran on Sunday hosted a Noruz (Persian New Year) summit attended by the presidents of Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and Iraq. The summit entitled the International Noruz Festival was attended by other foreign guests including Pakistan’s parliament speaker, Oman’s foreign minister, Lebanon’s foreign minister, Qatar’s crown prince, Kyrgyzstan’s culture and information minister, Azerbaijan’s deputy prime minister, India’s union health minister, Zanzibar’s vice president, and the ECO secretary general. The festival was held at Saadabad Palace where Persian artifacts and customs were on display. Four Arab states participated, but no mention of Saudi King Abdullah or Prince Saud al-Faisal attending. Nor did the king or prime minister of Bahrain. Come to think of it, neither did Bashar Assad attend; he must be at least as busy as the leaders of Bahrain. Too bad, Ahmadinejad could have benefited from some pointers on crowd-control by these tow worthies.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Secretary Clinton and Middle East Women and Costco……….

     
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US State Dept tweet:Secretary Clinton: women must participate in all aspects of political and institutional reforms….” I agree with her, although she did not specify if all the wives of the potentates are allowed to engage in such activity. I mean the king of Bahrain had three wives at last count. The potentates of Abu Dhabi keep it under wraps (one of them in Dubai is married to a Jordanian princess). As for the Saudi princes, oh boy, some of them probably don’t know the answer……. Can be costly, too bad Costco doesn’t carry wives……

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

United Arab Emirates: the Price of Silence…………

     
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In June 2008, Ms Gali had her drink spiked and was raped by three to four co-workers, while working as a beauty salon manager at the international resort. When she reported the assault to authorities she was jailed on an adultery charge and spent eight months in prison because it is illegal in the UAE to have sex outside marriage. Australian embassy staff advised her and her family not to go to the media, during her time in custody, where she was locked in a cell with 30 other women. She was pardoned and released in March 2009……. “The UAE is being promoted hugely here as a tourism destination – they sponsor things here. “They are not complying with human rights, women’s rights and migrant workers’ rights.”……..

It is a simple case. She was gang raped, she went to the police, she was jailed for ‘sex outside marriage’, she remained silent, she was pardoned a year later. I also suspect that Ms. Gali is not of “European” descent: UAE authorities have had other cases where they punished female victims of assault, victims who were of Asian or Arab descent. As for the Australian embassy….oy vey.
What I don’t understand” about this “sex outside marriage” charge: what about all them hookers (prostitutes) that the UAE is teeming with?
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Is it Syria in Exchange for Bahrain? the Arba’een………….

     
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The West, especially the United States government, have been quite silent over the oppression and the reign of terror going on in Bahrain. The reactions have been mild, calling for a end of violence by “both sides” and dialog. The US even accepted the Saudi invasion of Bahrain, which raises the question of what would the US say if Iranian troops had landed in Damascus at the invitation of Bashar al-Assad. Of course that will not happen.
On the other hand, the US has been almost muted about the protests in Syrian cities. Ironically, it is the Saudis, through their vast controlled media, who have been calling for reforms in Syria. The Saudis would not recognize reform if it kissed every prince on the nose (as we might say in the Gulf). They mean their kind of “reform” which means a regime that is as subservient to the al-Saud dynasty as Mubarak was, as subservient as Hariri in Lebanon or al-Khalifa in Bahrain have been (or even maybe as the al-Nahayan in Abu Dhabi seem to be nowadays).
In any case, shifts in Syria or the Gulf would be game changers in the region, and there seems to be an understanding that real change in these two regions is not acceptable, yet. Hence Syria will most likely suppress its uprising and institute some reforms with international blessing. Hence Bahrain has called in foreign invaders to suppress its uprising, with Western blessing.
I can be wrong about both: the Syrian uprising may gather steam, and the Bahrain uprising may regain its momentum as the forty-day (arba’een) anniversary of the first regime killings arrives.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

An Internet Iron Curtain over the Persian-American Gulf………

     
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As Middle East regimes try to stifle dissent by censoring the Internet, the U.S. faces an uncomfortable reality: American companies provide much of the technology used to block websites. McAfee Inc., acquired last month by Intel Corp., has provided content-filtering software used by Internet-service providers in Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, according to interviews with buyers and a regional reseller. Blue Coat Systems Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., has sold hardware and technology in Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar that has been used in conjunction with McAfee’s Web-filtering software and sometimes to block websites on its own, according to interviews with people working at or with ISPs in the region. A regulator in Bahrain, which uses McAfee’s SmartFilter product, says the government is planning to switch soon to technology from U.S.-based Palo Alto Networks Inc. It promises to give Bahrain more blocking options and make it harder for people to circumvent censoring. Netsweeper Inc. of Canada has landed deals in the UAE, Qatar and Yemen, according to a company document. …….

Now U.S corporations are providing the technology for these unsavory regimes on the Persian-American Gulf to block and possibly identify dissidents and locate them. Ironically they are helping to weaken and kill the Internet, an American invention, one of America’s greatest modern gifts to humanity. Arab regimes have been trying to coordinate the suppression of the Internet for a few years now: they are good at cording suppression. The Saudi have “led” the way this past year with new rules to suppress the internet. The Saudi rules now require every blogger to obtain permission from the ministry of information, answer certain questions, and apply for a license. That and the usual “state security” background check are enough discourage many. But I imagine many bloggers can “base” their blogs overseas. The UAE had issues last year with the Blackberry manufacturer because the regime wanted to be able to spy on users. Eventually the company (Research in Motion) gave in and the users lost.
I wonder what technology the Iranian censors are using. Most likely the same.

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

A Suspicious Saudi Confederation on my Gulf…………

        
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The Saudis are beginning to push the idea of a “GCC confederation” again. This time the push is directly from Saudi media (which is all official and semi-official, unless the publisher is in exile). This writer in Saudi daily al-Riyadh is making it sound urgent to establish the al-Saud hegemony over the smaller states of my Gulf, in preparation to swallowing them into the Kingdom without Magic.

As I wrote last week, the idea has been floating around the Gulf states in recent months, and it is being revived these days. Pro-Saudi Salafis and a handful of pro-Saudi media writers (some of them most likely surrogates encouraged or funded from Riyadh) are calling for a ‘confederation’ of the GCC Gulf states. One irresponsible columnist even called for a “quick confederation”, and he was covered extensively and gleefully by Saudi media. None of these worthies advises seeking people’s consent through referendums, or a vote on the issue: such is the state of watermelon opinion-makers on my Gulf. The potentates are seen as owning the countries to do with whatever they wish. One or two have become obsessive compulsive about it, repeating this frequently. They use fear of Iran as a factor, as well as stoking suspicion and fear of local Shi’as (minorities in all the GCC except Bahrain). The pro-Saudi tweeters (or possibly Saudi agents) are also pushing this idea.

I opined last year that it will not get anywhere. The Gulf states range politically from an absolute monarchy system to a partial democracy (I am not including Bahrain among the latter). The Saudis may think that this will solve the problem of pressures for democracy and accountability. A solidly despotic regime on the Saudi mold would be a strong front against Western and Arab pressures for openness, they probably think. It would also bring all other GCC states down to the Saudi and Bahraini levels in the treatment of their minority Shi’a (Shi’ites). That last point is very important for the Wahhabi Kingdom without Magic. For the Salafis around the Gulf it would mean that all GCC states become socially Saudi-like: more power for the clergy, no social reforms, women safely kept at home. And no politics: absofuckinglutely no politics! Salafis would gain more ‘political’ power as their patron regime, the Saudis, would dominate the new confederation as a prelude to swallowing it.

One early serious problem with such a scheme is that the rulers of the smaller states are not as stupid as the Salafis and Saudi surrogates in their countries think. They are all protective of their own turf and would never accept such a plan, although one or two media outlets may pay lip service to it. The al-Nahayan of the UAE are almost as autocratic as the al-Saud and would never give up one iota of power to their own people or to foreigners. As for Oman, it has always had little real interest in any form of integration, always looking across the Persian-American Gulf and the Indian Ocean. Then there are the peoples of our region who value their independence and way of life, in spite of all the media noise that hint at the sun actually shining out of the ass of some Saudi prince or another. In other words, such a plan is not only impractical, but dangerous for the peoples of the Gulf states. It is DOA. Only the al-Khalifa of Bahrain may agree to such a hegemony, but then any regime that invites occupation and torments its own people would go far to cling to absolute power. br>
Therefore, I repeat my recent fatwa that this plan is a hair-brained scheme or, as we would say on the Gulf, “مشروع بطيخ” a watermelon scheme.

Cheers
mhg

Goebbels of Arabia: A Feudal Lesson in Democracy………..

     
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No doubt suppression will buy the regime, any regime, more time, but it will not lead to safety. The simplest examples are those of Saddam’s Iraq and Mu’ammar Qaddafi. They tried all methods of oppression, but the time for change came… Can Damascus continue to try a journalist for weakening national resolve or a teenage blogger for threatening national security? This cannot continue in view of recent changes in our region….. If Egypt becomes truly democratic it may limit presidential terms, and the same may happen in Tunisia and Libya. Can the Syrian regime then remain the only static case in the face of all this change?….. Developments from which Syria cannot be isolated say that Syria has no choice but to do more reforms, It is time for Damascus to start some real reforms in allowing political parties and term limits……There are no magical solutions but real reform…….

You might think this paragraph was written by someone who is a devout republican democrat, someone who believes in power to the people. It was not: on the contrary, it was written by a spokesman for the Saudi regime. It was written by Tareq al-Humaid, the chief editor of Saudi semi-official daily Asharq Alawsat, owned by Prince Salman. I would not call him Goebbels: that would be a flattery.
These people truly believe that everybody around them can reform and democratize (except Bahrain under its apartheid), but that they should maintain a feudal system in the Arabian Peninsula. An anomaly: a most backward system anywhere in the 21st century. To read him agonize about people power and democracy and term limits, you’d think their absolute king is about to announce a new republic, the princes to give up their power. These people truly believe they are entitled to maintain their own system of absolute one-family feudal rule even as they urge others to reform. They never asked Bin Ali or Mubarak or the al-Khalifa to reform, but they are eager for Assad to do so. It is true that Syria is a dictatorship that should open up and allow free elections of its leaders. But the peoples of the Arabian Peninsula and Bahrain and the UAE and Qatar also deserve the same freedoms (so do the Iranians).
Truly a case of a pot calling a kettle black.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

The Curious Council of Ministers of Bahrain……..

     

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Bahrain cabinet:

  • King HAMAD bin Isa al-Khalifa

  • Prime Min. KHALIFA bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Dep. Prime Min. ALI bin Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Dep. Prime Min. KHALID bin Abdallah al-Khalifa

  • Dep. Prime Min. MUHAMMAD bin Mubarak al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Culture MAI bint Muhammad al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Finance AHMAD bin Muhammad bin Hamad bin Abdallah al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Foreign Affairs KHALID bin Ahmad bin Muhammad al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Housing IBRAHIM bin Khalifa bin Ali al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Justice & Islamic Affairs KHALID bin Ali al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Interior RASHID bin Abdallah bin Ahmad al-Khalifa

  • Min. of the Royal Court KHALID bin Ahmad bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Min. of Royal Court Affairs ALI bin Isa bin Salman al-Khalifa

  • Min. of State for Defense Affairs MUHAMMAD bin Abdallah al-Khalifa

  • Min. of State for Cabinet Affairs AHMAD bin Atiyatallah al-Khalifa 
  • Chief of the Central Information Organization, AHMAD bin Atiyatallah  al-Khalifa

  • Chief of National Security, Abdulaziz Bin Atiyatullah al-Khalifa

  • Commander of the Army, Khalifa Bin Ahmad al-Khalifa

  • Commander of Rapid Deployment Force (Royal Guard), Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of Royal Charity, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of the Olympic Committee, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of the Higher Council for youth and Sports, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa

  • Chief of the Royal Team for Ability, Nasser Bin Hamad al-Khalifa


(Get the picture? One of the above was changed recently).

Everybody else:
Dep. Prime Min. Jawad bin Salim al-ARAIDH Min. of Education Majid bin Ali Hasan al-NUAYMI Min. of Electricity & Water Fahmi bin Ali al-JAWDAR Min. of Health Faysal bin Yaqoub al-HAMMER Min. of Industry & Commerce HASAN bin Abdallah al-Fakhru Min. of Labor Majid bin Muhsin al-ALAWI Min. of Municipal Affairs & Urban Planning JUMA bin Ahmad al-Ka’abi Min. of Oil & Gas Affairs Abd al-Husayn MIRZA Min. of Social Development Fatima bint Ahmad al-BALUSHI Min. of Works ISSAM bin Abdallah Khalaf Min. of State for Follow-Up Affairs Muhammad bin Ibrahim al-MUTAWA Min. of State for Foreign Affairs Nizar al-BAHARNA Min. of State for Shura Council & Parliament Affairs Abd al-Aziz bin Muhammad al-FADHIL .
(One or two of these has resigned in protest)

Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Arabian Peninsula: She Said Kings, When they Enter a Land…….

     
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“She said: Kings, when they enter a land, they ruin it, and make its noble people its meanest, thus do they behave…….”  Holy Quran (Saurat al-Naml)

The Arabian Peninsula is now the home of tribalism and sectarianism. One goes back to long before Islam, the other sprung from Islamic history and goes back to the early decades of Islam. Some things have not changed in 14 centuries. This has been a signature characteristic of the region from the Persian-American Gulf to the Red Sea, especially along the Gulf. While tribalism has always been part of life, Gulf sectarianism has in recent years, nay in recent weeks, acquired a venomous quality that is almost breath-taking:


Yemen. Abdullah Ali Saleh blamed his earlier troubles in 2009 on Iran and al-Qaeda (that was during the last Huthi War, maybe the fifth one). He has multiple foes. The Huthis are only in the far north. The people of the south, Aden and Hadramout and others, want to regain their independence that they gave up in 1990. Al-Qaeda wants to keep on using Yemen as a training ground as well as a safe haven and launching pad on the Arabia Peninsula. They are not welcome in Saudi Arabia anymore, although they apparently get all the money they want from “someone” in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere. Saleh has not resorted to the “drugs” charge because almost everybody in Yemen chews “qat” and effectively gets stoned at least once a day.

Bahrain. The oligarchy in Bahrain, always sectarian and tribal, has blamed its troubles with the people on Iran mostly. If there is Iranian interference, they certainly provided the climate for it. Only recently have its propagandists started to blame drugs as well. Bahrain officialdom has been rife with corruption and sectarianism since the early 1970s when the al-Khalifa suspended the constitution and ended politics. The period since then has been one of theft and robbery of public property and of enshrining the sectarian Apartheid system. The regime even resorted to importing mercenary thugs from Pakistan and Jordan and other places to fill the security ranks because it does not want to hire Shi’as. They have now resorted to inviting foreign forces (Saudis) to crush the people for demanding their rights. In recent days the regime has started, as Time Magazine reports, a reign of terror against the people. Bahrain is becoming a carbon copy of the absolute tribal family monarchy that is Saudi Arabia: they both follow a policy of Apartheid, except in Bahrain it applies against a majority of the people.
 
Saudi Arabia. The long alliance between the al-Saud princes and the fundamentalist Wahhabi clerics endures. Note how many ministers and clerics are named Al Al-Shaikh, descendants of Mohammed Bin Abdulwahhab (the Najdi shaikh and not Mohammed Abdelwahab the late great Egyptian musician and singer). Saudis pretend there are no such earthly problems in their Kingdom without Magic. Unemployment is in double digits (up to 40% among the young reported ), and the king recently announced opening tens of thousands of new jobs, all of them in the security services! They hint at some Iranian interference in the Eastern Province (largely Shi’a), but they have not blamed it on drugs yet. They certainly can’t blame it on Islamic fundamentalists, because the whole kingdom is one fundamentalist hotbed of a kingdom. Maybe the al-Saud will use the ‘drug’ card if (nay, when) the people rise in Najd or Hijaz to demand their God-given rights.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

North Africa: Some of the Usual Suspects…….

     
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North African leaders, like other Arab leaders, are not very creative. They also have mostly tended to blame the uprisings on the same unlikely factors. The culprits are always a combination of Islamists and drugs (one also added that old Arab stand-by Zionism and the new stand-by Iran):
 
Tunisia. Home of the first Arab revolution (still ongoing as the people want to make sure they get the democracy they fought for). Dictator Bin Ali, to his credit, did not blame the unrest on drugs or Iran or al-Qaeda or crusaders. Not that I know of. He was more dignified than all those who followed, especially in Libya or Bahrain: he left when the people made their wish known.
Egypt. For decades Mubarak convinced the West that he was the only thing between Egypt and al-Qaeda (well, al-Zawahiri). That he stood blocking another Arab-Israeli war. He tried again last January to play the al-Qaeda card, but it was wearing thin. Maybe the dictator believed it. He had help from his Saudi allies in that task: they and the Emirati and Bahraini rulers stuck by him to the end, urging him to defy his people. He did not listen to them and in the end proved more honorable than, say, the Bahraini monarchy that chose to kill its people with foreign help. People could see that the young rebels at Tahrir did not wear Taliban Turbans or Salafi ghutra & egal, so he switched to drugs. Some of his frustrated henchmen even claimed that drugs mingled with free sex at Tahrir Square.
Libya. Qaddafi has blamed his troubles on al-Qaeda and drugs and a Western crusade. He himself looks stoned out of his head whenever he appears publicly. on the upside: he made ‘zenga zenga‘ a household word around the world.
Algeria. The French have been gone for fifty years, so Bouteflika and his generals cannot blame them. The Islamists were once a serious danger in the 1990s: they had won one election and were poised to win a bigger one, before the ruling class decided to cancel all elections. That led to a long and gruesome civil war. It can happen again if the dictatorship refuses to open up and allow competition.
Cheers
mhg

m.h.ghuloum@gmail.com

Multidisciplinary: Middle East, North Africa, Gulf, GCC, World, Cosmos…..